In our last post we went through the fun and not-so-fun parts of planning and getting to Israel and left off arriving at our hotel, the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame Of Jerusalem Center. Or as we called it, The Pope’s House. It’s a lot easier to say and it sounds cool. And, after all, it belongs to The Vatican. If you ever find yourself in the Old City of Jerusalem, it’s worth stopping by. Even if just for a sunset dinner.
The absolute #1 amenity for family hotel stays
We were booked into a triple room with a surcharge for the fourth person for a total of 102,000 Arrival points (or $1,020) including breakfast for 3 nights. I think they elected to upgrade us to a family suite. No TVs, too far from an access point for wi-fi to work in the room, four single beds and very basic furnishings were all trumped by the most valuable amenity of all: Doors! Four of them! Based on the A and B designations, our rooms could be sold as separate rooms with a shared bathroom off a small entryway.
There are 4 restaurants at the Popes house:
The dining room where buffet breakfasts and dinners are served. Our room included breakfast which was a very nice spread of pastries, bread, meats and cheeses as well as fruit and eggs. Everything was excellent and fresh, right down to the bowl to catch the raw honey dripping from a piece of honeycomb each morning. We never ate dinner there, but the Indian food and Turkey dinner we
got had to walk by Wednesday and Thursday evenings looked and smelled delicious. I think there’s an option to get dinner included in your room, or it’s $18 per person.
The Allegro Bistro Café with pastries and light lunch and dinner fare. This was also the only place we saw TVs playing. We like football and all, but we had just 3 days in Israel and we weren’t going to spend them in front of the tube!
The Grill and Pizzoto, an Italian restaurant accessible directly from the street. We had dinner there as soon as we rolled in Wednesday before going to sleep off some jetlag. The pizza and pasta were very good, and they had what looked like a good wine list. Assuming lots of bottles and several pages of high prices make a good wine list, I have no clue. The house white wine was fine – it pretty much always is.
The rooftop Wine and Cheese Restaurant. This is the main attraction for good reason: the spectacular views of Jerusalem including the Old City and the Mount of Olives beyond make for as good an urban dining setting as you’ll find. They have a longer wine list with more big numbers in it, a small menu with lots of cheese plate options as well as full meals. After having a mid-afternoon Thanksgiving dinner in the Muslim Quarter, we had dessert up there.
Visiting the Pope’s House
From the New Gate, walk directly across the street and you’ll run into it. Turn right on the sidewalk for a hundred feet or so and then left through the driveway gate into the courtyard. From there you can continue to the left to enter the main lobby, or go straight to access the Grill which is the shortest route directly to the roof.
Getting to the roof
isn’t as straightforward as it should be. Or maybe I should say ‘could be’ if they don’t want everyone going up there just for the view. If you go to the front desk, they’ll direct you to the wine and cheese restaurant, which may or may not be open depending on the season and day of the week. The front desk staff didn’t really seem to know what the hours even were. Anyways, you can take the main elevator to the roof and you’ll be at the door of the restaurant’s indoor section. From there you can sit in the restaurant inside or outside, or you can continue through the restaurant and onto the observation deck area. If the restaurant is closed, there is another way. The elevator in the building’s right wing takes you directly to the deck. You can get directly to that elevator from the basement level Grill & Pizzoto restaurant (accessible from the street) or through the lobby, right through the dining room and out into through the door which leads to few rooms where you’ll find the elevator. Trust me, it will be worth the short walk from New Gate in the Christian Quarter.
It may not be what many families look for in a hotel, and the Pope’s House definitely would have been well out of our budget if not for a timely generous Barclays Rewardsboost offer on AMEX gift card purchases. Still we’d definitely recommend stopping by the Pope’s House to enjoy the view if you’re ever in the neighborhood!